New York City police said Wednesday that the same man may have tried to set four separate women on fire in New York City last Saturday.
Police reported Tuesday that a man had approached a woman on New York City’s Fifth Avenue over the weekend, setting her blouse on fire with a lighter. The woman was able to pat out the flame as the man fled.
Police now say they have learned of attacks on three additional women that occurred within the same one-mile radius in midtown Manhattan last Saturday night, and within two hours of each other. All four of the women were attacked in the same manner by a black male wielding a lighter, who approached his victims, flicked the lighter toward their clothing and then fled.
The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force began investigating the first reported incident as a possible hate crime because the woman, a Muslim, was wearing a headscarf.
But Officer Sophia Mason, a police spokeswoman, said Wednesday that it now appears unlikely that any of the incidents constitutes a “bias” or hate crime because of the diversity of the victims.
One victim is a Muslim woman who was wearing hijab, two others were white, and a fourth was Hispanic. One of the victims was also wearing shorts, Mason said, noting the lack of uniformity in the way the women were dressed.
Police think the incidents are related, and likely perpetrated by the same suspect, Mason said.
Two of the women were attacked separately on Fifth Avenue, and the other two were attacked at the 42nd Street subway station. In two of the attacks, the suspect appeared to be accompanied by a small group of men and women.